Friday, March 11, 2011

Liam Stevens "Spontaneity is the key"



Paper cuts by illustrator Liam Stevens (www.liamstevens.com)  for the Music video, acoustic version of "Waiting" by My Robot Friend (featuring Jay Kauffman). This stop motion animation is made entirely of pencil & cut paper and took just over three months to complete. (Production and technical assistance; Chris Tozer, makemakestudio.commyrobotfriend.comchristozer.com.)
With tradeyourtalent Liam speaks about creating memories on paper and why his paper cut animation video was a real challenge. 

You just need pencil and paper to create magical scenery. What themes do you like to play with? 
Liam: Nostalgia seems to have surfaced a lot in my work. I have not really fully understood why but I indulge myself on creating memories of places I have never been. I am drawn to photographs and pictures that capture something quixotic and inspire me to create their full surroundings, even if I am not motivated to depict them on paper they resonate in my head.

With narrative landscape drawing I am interested in creating an atmosphere that draws you into the picture. When creating landscapes either from memory, imagined, or from old photographs I imagine myself being there inside the vista and I often work with my head almost touching the paper as I render each small area at a time. (Though I wouldn't recommend it - I now have glasses) Each crude but small detail helps portray a greater sense of the world inside the frame.

I am influenced by nature documentaries. Learning about the planet we’re on and the amount of life it contains is exciting and that feeds into the worlds in my work. I regularly play a documentary on mute while listening to music to stimulate the eyes and ears, looking up for a quick refresh while I work.

Abstract design devices and type also inspire me. I like to keep a balance between densely worked landscapes and graphic quick fixes. Paper cut is a great medium for moving shapes around a piece of paper and solving visual puzzles. Working outside a computer with real cut out shapes you can’t change the size or alter the shape digitally to work with a space; you have to work with its actual size. The shape based abstract elements in my work are usually produced from a pile of cut paper shapes and are not premeditated. I push and pull them around the page until I feel I have found something that works for me.

You recently did some animation videos with your illustrations. That was hard work?

Liam: Animation is hard work. I hadn’t really put as much time into one before and I wanted to experiment with a technique that was born out of a pop-up poster I made at Uni. I had illustrated a train platform and cut around all the figures waiting for a train. Once you got down to eye level with the characters in the poster it felt like you were in their world. I liked this and I wanted to see it move. I made lots of tests to see how I would give these static pop-up people life and the process that evolved was long and fiddly. Each moving element was animated free hand over a light box and then cut out and stuck onto thicker paper and then cut out again. The hardest part about the animation process was probably the registration of each frame. If I hadn’t scored the fold in exactly the right place the character would pigeon walk with its whole body tilting forwards and back, Likewise with the angle of the paper on the other axis – towards and away from you along the fold. I had to try and keep the character from not bending and tilting too much as it would lose the nice ‘choppyness’ and just become an absolute incoherent mess, fluttering around the set like a grounded butterfly on methamphetamine or something.

What is your favourite part about illustration?

Liam: I enjoy rolling with an idea or experiment or whatever that seems to present itself. I had once envisaged an entire animated short scene by scene in my head on my tube journey home and as soon as I got out the tube I had to lean against the first tree in sight and super roughly storyboard the entire thing to work up at a later date. (I still really want to make the short when I get the time.) I suppose having studied a degree in illustration it has helped me to communicate my ideas to paper more effectively.

When did you make your first paper cuts? 
Liam: Can’t remember, probably as soon as I was allowed to use plastic scissors.


Do you ever run out of ideas?

Liam: I find spontaneity is key; something always manifests itself. I often don’t try too hard to find something. Most of the time I let it appear before me and run with it. Often the best ideas are a reaction to something or an instinct.

2 comments:

  1. What a beautiful animation! Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you Audrey! Liam's work is amazing!

    ReplyDelete

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